Sri Lankan free-speech advocates are speaking out against efforts by the
government to ban Ashoka Handagama's film Aksharaya (Letter of
Fire). Although the film had been approved by the Public Performances
Board, the Ministry of Cultural Affairs announced last week that it would not
allow the film to be screened because of a key scene in which a pre-teen boy
sees his mother nude. The Sri Lankan Free Media Movement has denounced what it
called "these ridiculous allegations that FMM strongly feels are being directed
against progressive forces in Sri Lankan cinema." Veteran filmmaker Lester
James Peries issued a statement calling the film "a serious work, powerful,
disturbing (to the fainthearted), a searing attack on all our 'Sacred Cows'"
and charged that the government was "creating an undemocratic situation in the
field of cinema." On Monday, Handagama told reporters that the PPB had asked
him to return the approval letter that he had received for the film.